UP must opt ​​for the green economy path

Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath has pledged to make the state a $1-trillion economy by 2027 with agriculture, infrastructure, and urban development as major drivers of the growth trajectory. However, this four-fold economic growth should not disrupt the environment and adversely affect the most vulnerable.

How will UP’s trillion-dollar economy be measured? In a state of 230 million people, the gains in development must be assessed while ensuring that ecosystems are not lost to deforestation, soil degradation and pollution. Accounting for the decline in natural capital will be crucial while gauging the true value of the $1-trillion economy.

This will require a “green” Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) to assign costs to difficult-to-quantify ecosystem services — from watersheds, forests, grasslands, and aquatic ecosystems. Green GSDP is the total GSDP minus the net of natural capital impacted by economic activity. This will be essential, keeping in view the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, international climate targets, and land degradation neutrality objectives.

Quadrupling what is currently a $250-billion economy in five years is a challenging mission. This will require the state to come out of its comfort zone. UP is the third-largest economy among states, contributing about 8% to the national GDP. Since its goal to become $1 trillion is in line with India’s goal to become a $5-trillion economy, the state will need to implement its share of national-level environmental commitments, such as creating an additional carbon sink for 2.5-3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional green cover by 2030.

UP’s size positions it well to be a leader in green accounting. A five-year exercise has been initiated by the Center to quantify the country’s natural capital to help estimate each state’s green GSDP. UP should be at the forefront of this green accounting path.

Green jobs need to be incentivized. This requires capacity building, skill development, and documentation. The Skill Council for Green Jobs under the National Skill Development Mission describes green jobs as soil and water management, sustainable forestry, renewable energy, solid waste management, environmental remediation, recycling, electric vehicle servicing, green construction, and low-carbon processes.

Sustainable agricultural practices include climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry-based farming systems, the use of drought, flood and pest-resistant varieties, and organic farming. This assumes great significance because UP is the country’s largest producer of food grains, sugarcane, potatoes, vegetables, and milk. Conventional crop breeding alone will not bridge the gap between current production and the levels needed to feed a growing population. UP’s alignment with the Center’s Digital Agriculture Mission 2021-2025, promoting Artificial Intelligence, remote sensing, GIS technology, and drones will help accelerate growth and foster resource-use efficiency. Biotechnologies such as gene editing tools have major potential for sustainable growth. Linking regenerative practices with carbon credits will help connect smallholders with carbon markets.

Green urbanization has been initiated through participation in the Smart Cities Mission, with 17 cities having been identified for improving the quality of life through retrofitting and redevelopment. Among the newer ideas is blue-green infrastructure, integrating networks of water and vegetated landscaping to provide climate resilience.

Public procurement accounts for 25-30% of India’s GDP. UP can choose goods and services with reduced environmental impact. Green public procurement can incentivize the industry to develop eco-friendly products, particularly in sectors where public purchasers represent a large share of the market, for example, construction, health services, or transport.

Whether the $1 trillion goal fructifies in five years or stretches beyond 2027, UP will witness a surge in transportation, communications, energy, mineral excavation and urbanization. Therefore, greater transparency, inclusive public engagement, and rigorous health, safety and environmental impact assessment are urgent. UP’s green economy of the future will be driven by future generations, but it must begin with us.

Rita Sharma is former secretary, ministry of rural development. She has been secretary, National Advisory Council; financial commissioner, UP; principal secretary to the government of UP, agriculture and rural development The views expressed are personal

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